What Good are Mosquitoes?

Posted by Charlotte Wasylik, aka Prairie Birder,

You have probably wondered the above to yourself at some point during the summer. I know I have, especially when I’ve been out birding and the mosquitoes were bad enough to make you crazy, not to mention not concentrate on what you’re seeing and hearing.

Mosquito photo from the National Geographic

Mosquito photo from the National Geographic

About a month ago, I heard someone ask “What good is a mosquito?”. And it made me think that many aerial insectivores such as Swallows, Nighthawks, Swifts, and Flycatchers all depend on those insects. And in fact, aerial insectivores are one of the fastest declining bird species. This decline is thought to be due to loss of habitat, climate change,  and also a decline in insect population , which itself may be the result of growing pesticide use.

Mosquitoes are not the only insects that birds feed on — cicadas, beetles, flies, ants, grasshoppers, worms, and more make up a bird’s diet. And adult mosquitoes are enjoyed not by just birds, but also by bats, spiders, and even some pitcher plants. Mosquito larvae is a great food source for fish, shorebirds, frogs, and other aquatic life.

So the next time you’re out birding, hiking, or in your garden, swatting at mosquitoes and wondering “What good are they?”, consider what the world would be like if we didn’t have these annoying, blood-sucking, yet nutritious and tasty, insects in the ecosystem.

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For more reading on mosquitoes, and the decline of aerial insectivores:

:: An article from Bird Studies Canada by Jon McCracken about aerial insectivores

:: A very good article about the important role that mosquitoes play in the ecosystem by Janet Fang

:: An article about aerial insectivores from the New Hampshire Audubon newsletter by Pamela Hunt

About Charlotte Wasylik

Charlotte Wasylik is a young birder who lives on a farm in northeastern Alberta. She was delighted to be selected for a monthlong Young Ornithologists’ Internship at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario in August-September, to help with fall migration monitoring. Charlotte’s blog is Prairie Birder, and you can also find her at the Facebook group she started last year, Alberta Birds, which welcomes all birders, bird lovers, and nature photographers.

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